To Read: Barry Rubin believes that Obama has been making every mistake possible in the Middle East (and he thinks Israel should simply be quiet and smile about it):
You have to understand, I tell the diplomat, that there’s been for all practical purposes a revolution in the United States, at least in terms of its governance. Regarding foreign policy, all the old rules don’t apply – credibility; punishing enemies and rewarding friends; deterrence; don’t leave your men behind to die; don’t appoint a muddleheaded fool to be secretary of defense. In each case there is a nicely crafted rationalization for going against centuries of diplomatic and security practices. But so what? It’s still wrong.
Obama is too busy in apologizing for real or imagined past US bullying, proving he only believes in multilateral action, has so much respect for local customs, and trying to demonstrate to those that hate it that America is their buddy in order to win them over.
The language above is harsh, but it is also true… Once upon a time there were two superpowers, the United States and USSR, in the Cold War. Then there was one superpower, the United States. Now there are none.
Quote: "Over time, we are making good progress in making the Iranian currency fairly unusable, which is an extremely good thing", Senator Mark Kirk about the recent sanctions on Iran.
Number: 62, the percentage of Americans who believe that the Republican Party is out of touch with the American people.
To Read: Ben Birenboim examines the unclear prospects of the peace process in an in depth cover story for the New Republic:
Netanyahu is putting the finishing touches on a wide governing coalition, likely to include Bennett on the right and Livni on the left, and what he will do remains a mystery. Based on his historical aversion to the peace process, many believe he’ll opt for the status quo. Erekat, the Palestinian negotiator, predicted that Netanyahu would embark on unilateral withdrawal before the end of his term. (“He’s not stupid,” Erekat said.) Others think he may do more. “I’m convinced that, if the circumstances are right, he will go much farther than people think,” Dennis Ross told me. “Abu Mazen told me he thought there was no way Bibi could do a deal. I said, ‘How do you know? You haven’t tested him.’”
But one thing is clear: No Israeli would be better positioned to sell and implement a deal than Bibi. Ami Ayalon, a former chief of Shin Bet and a leading peace activist, told me Netanyahu needs to envision his grandson 40 years from now reading a newspaper about the three great Zionist leaders: Theodor Herzl, who dreamt the state; David Ben Gurion, who built it; and Benjamin Netanyahu, who secured its future as a Jewish democracy.
Quote: "Israel is clearly the strongest country in the Middle East. We do not expect that there is a power in the region that can attack Israel with air forces and with armored divisions", Ehud Barak about Israeli military strength.
Number: 3.1, the percent expansion of Israel's economy in 2012 (slower than first estimate).
The Middle East
Read: An Economist piece contrasts the efficiency of the Muslim Brotherhood as an opposition organization with the inefficiency of its governance:
It is not just in Egypt that the Brothers are taking a battering nowadays, and not just in the form of ridicule. From the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf, the many mainstream Islamist groups allied to, inspired by or sympathetic to the Brotherhood, whose main branch was founded in Egypt in 1928, face a range of tricky challenges. In countries that have so far been spared the upheavals of the Arab spring these can take familiar shape: the United Arab Emirates, still an absolute monarchy, this week began trying 94 alleged Brothers on charges of conspiracy against the state. Yet across most of the region the trials are of a new kind, brought on not by persecution as in decades past, but by the responsibilities and burdens of being in charge.
Quote: "Egypt police haven't fired one bullet since revolution anniversary", Egyptian interior Minister responding to claims of police brutality.
Number: 3 million, the possible number of Syrian refugees by the end of the year according to the UN.
The Jewish World
To Read: David Brooks visits a Brooklyn Kosher food store and is deeply impressed by the level of commitment of its Orthodox customers:
Those of us in secular America live in a culture that takes the supremacy of individual autonomy as a given. Life is a journey. You choose your own path. You can live in the city or the suburbs, be a Wiccan or a biker.
For the people who shop at Pomegranate, the collective covenant with God is the primary reality and obedience to the laws is the primary obligation. They go shopping like the rest of us, but their shopping is minutely governed by an external moral order.
The laws, in this view, make for a decent society. They give structure to everyday life. They infuse everyday acts with spiritual significance. They build community. They regulate desires. They moderate religious zeal, making religion an everyday practical reality.
Quote: “Sandy Koufax was not just the greatest left-handed pitcher I ever saw. He’s also the greatest mensch I’ve ever met in my life”, Jane Leavy, author of a Koufax biography, at a recent event in his honor.
Number: $7.4 million, the amount raised by Jewish federations for Sandy relief efforts.